AUGUSTA – The Kennebec Journal has dropped its lawsuit against the state’s ethics commission because the agency has released the documents the newspaper sought in connection with the gubernatorial campaign of Democrat John Richardson.

The newspaper had sued the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices seeking documents filed in Richardson’s failed effort to gain public funding for his campaign. The lawsuit came after repeated Freedom of Access requests from the Kennebec Journal in April and May were denied.

The commission refused to release the documents, saying they were confidential because they were turned over to the Maine Attorney General’s Office as part of a criminal investigation.

The documents — two data CDs and copies of ethics commission files that included a number of e-mails — were released Friday and Monday to Kennebec Journal editor and publisher Anthony Ronzio.

The decision to drop the lawsuit came Tuesday, the day before the parties were scheduled for a hearing in Kennebec County Superior Court.

“They agreed to fulfill our initial Freedom of Access request,” Ronzio said. “I was satisfied that what we asked for was provided. We still believe the ethics commission should have fulfilled this request sooner.”

Jonathan Wayne, executive director of the ethics commission, said Wednesday that “it was always our intention to make these documents public in a way that would not interfere with the criminal investigation and we are glad that we were able to work with the Kennebec Journal to come to an out-of-court resolution.”

Ronzio said he hopes the Legislature takes a hard look at the statutes that govern withholding of documents.

“It is not good practice to have documents that are otherwise public be shielded simply on the say-so of law enforcement,” Ronzio said. “If a document is created as a public document, it should remain a public document. That was the principle of our appeal.”

Ronzio praised the cooperation and open communication of the staff of the ethics commission. He also said the newspaper would make all the documents available online.

Ten days ago, four former Richardson volunteers were charged with unsworn falsification stemming from the collection of $5 contributions to help Richardson qualify for public campaign funding.

The four volunteers — William Moore, Denise Altvater, Joseph Pickering and Lori Levesque — were among those attempting to collect the 3,250 contributions needed for Richardson to qualify.

The defendants are accused of falsifying “Receipt and Acknowledgement” forms certifying they collected contributions to Richardson. signing the form, they certified the collection was done in their presence and was provided to them without receiving anything of value in return.

According to court records, the four circulators are accused of certifying contributions collected by others, and falsifying contributions made by members of the public.

The charges resulted from investigations by the ethics commission and the Attorney General’s Office. Those charges will be handled in district courts in West Bath, Fort Kent and Calais, near where those charged live.

Ronzio said the Kennebec Journal sought the records for the public to gain a greater understanding of how the Clean Elections system operates, and how the ethics commission holds political campaigns accountable when receiving public money.